Britain has imposed a strict lockdown on the English city of Leicester after a local flare-up of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19, overshadowing the Prime Minister Boris Johnson's attempts to push the nation back to normalcy.
The United Kingdom has been one of the most affected nations in the world with over 54,000 suspected deaths, even though the infections have been decreasing in recent weeks and many restrictions are going to be lifted all over England from Saturday for reviving the economy.
However, in Leicester, in the eastern Midlands of England, that relaxation is in reverse after figures showed its seven-day infection rate was three times higher than the next highest city. Leicester accounted for 10 percent of all positive cases in England in the past week, the government said. "Going back into lockdown might be a good thing to get rid of the virus. But on the other hand, a lot businesses are going to suffer," Shane Durrant, who works at a bookmaker that had just begun reopening, told Reuters.
The Leicester lockdown has drawn attention away from a speech by Johnson later on Tuesday in Dudley, 50 miles away, to detail plans for rebuilding the economy.
Health Minister Matt Hancock said the government was still analyzing the exact reasons behind the rise of cases in Leicester and added that the local lockdown would require legal changes with new measures enforced by police. Leicester mayor Peter Soulsby said it had been hard to get details from the government including what areas the lockdown would cover. "It's obviously going to be quite a challenge enforcing it," he told Sky News.
Schools in the city, where the remains of King Richard III of England were found in 2012, will close from Thursday after an unusually high incidence of infections in children. Residents said people had been widely ignoring advice on social distancing and other measures to curb the virus when the government first began easing rules two weeks ago.
"I think if people listened and stayed at home, then we wouldn't be here," said Bob Sharma, a bank manager. Pawnbroker Arun Mortala said people had not been wearing face masks or keeping a distance when backing on high streets. "I was expecting that this was going to happen," he said.
(With agency inputs)